Of Values and Ethics by Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
Posted on 02/01/2012 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
“Crooked” dog judging? We’ve all heard it said one time or another, but in my humble opinion seldom, if ever, do we find decisions made by judges that are made out of dishonesty.
Lack of knowledge, lack of experience, well, that’s another matter, but down and out dishonesty I’d venture to say occurs next to never. It’s how decisions are viewed that is far more apt to be the case.
An intrinsic shortcoming of the dog game is the great latitude it provides its participants to create their own version of reality. The entire structure of purebred dogs lends itself to a belief that “as we see it” is as valid as what is actually so.
Breed standards allow the reader to interpret. A judge’s opinion is based upon what he or she believes to be correct. A dog’s loss in the ring is due to what the exhibitor rationalizes what the reason was. Even things as basic as a dog’s ability to produce quality is subject to the viewer’s assessment.
In the dog game, there is no finish line to cross, no end zone in which to score a touchdown or high jump bar to clear. It is all a matter of opinion. That said, however, common sense demands reality not be distorted to the point that we are completely out of touch with what is really going on.
All Eyes on the Judge
The judge gets it all - everything a judge says or does is subject to scrutiny. All eyes are on the judge when he or she is passing judgment in the ring. Judges are quoted (and misquoted!) constantly when it comes to their opinions. This is because they are very important in the overall dog show scheme. Judges hold the future of a dog’s show career in their hands and in far more cases than is realized they affect breed progress.
Most people begin judging because they love their breed and have had some success in producing quality as breeders. Often they find their skill in evaluating breeding stock and resulting offspring is called upon to assist others in pursuing successful breeding programs. This, in turn, often leads to a judging career. This can mean judging their own breed or in some cases the individual may have the knowledge and ability to go on to other breeds as well.
A “successful” breeder is one who has made their mark by producing animals that have had a positive effect on the breed. These animals are sought out, bred to and the offspring, in turn, campaigned. The more outstanding examples from the person’s kennel usually are of a similar look or style. That is what the individual breeder likes, that is what he or she strives to produce as consistently as possible.
When that same person begins to judge their breed, it should not seem surprising that they would look for good specimens that fall within the style range similar to the one they bred. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why would anyone breed and show a style of dog they didn’t like? Why would a person believe in their own successful interpretation of the standard any less once they start judging?
A judge would seem a bit daffy if he or she would put up something they didn’t like or think was correct because it didn’t resemble what they as breeders bred - just to prove they were honest. Yet there are exhibitors who consider a judge who puts up the style he or she has bred or dogs descending from that line as suspect - somehow shady or dishonest.
How Far to Reach?
Just about every country in the world has a rule or rules that deal with judges passing upon a dog they’ve owned, trained or raised. To a country, there are always some exhibitors who feel these rules, no matter how well stated, are not tough enough. They believe that no dog coming out of a judge’s line downstream should be shown under or selected by that judge.
Having owned a very influential sire, it would be hard for me ever to agree with that opinion. It is almost impossible to find a Bichon Frise in North America who does not in some way trace back to my CH Chaminade Mr. Beau Monde within five generations more or less.
Some of his descendants are of great quality. Others are not. When one of Mr. Beau Monde’s descendants enters the ring, do I recognize the relationship? Quite frankly, the question never arises. I either see the dog as quality or not. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think about it and, in fact, the famous response of Gone With the Wind’s Rhett Butler, “Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn” applies here in spades!
When I was still breeding, I was very specific in telling those whom I had sold dogs to not to show the dog to me in the ring. It is my personal opinion that dogs purchased from judges should not be shown under them at all! Why? Because it is a no-win situation. The judges are “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”
If the judge puts up a dog they have bred the judge is looked upon as biased in the least if not downright crooked. On the other hand, if the judge were not to put up the dog you can rest assured detractors would be quick to say, “The judge sold that dog to the exhibitor as show quality but didn’t even think it was good enough to put!” Someone inclined to make that statement is not concerned with the fact the dog may be a good one and the one that defeated it was also good - just a bit better.
Nor would someone who makes a statement of that kind care if the dog in question was sold as show stock in the first place! Believe me, I have more than once sold a dog to someone who wanted “just a pet” and have had to see the dog in the show ring time after time after time.
There is really nothing to gain and everything to lose by showing a dog purchased from a judge under that judge. The judge loses respect if the dog wins (regardless of how deserving it might be).
Unfortunately too few spectators or competitors are objective enough to see such a win as a legitimate. Further, even the exhibitor is seen as dishonest and colluding with the judge. A part of showing any dog is to earn respect and admiration for the dog. I cannot see that happening under circumstances such as these.
It is a judge’s duty to put up the best dog in the ring at the moment. I’ve never read anything that ever said that this does not apply if you have ever had anything to do with the dog’s birth, its parents or in fact any of its ancestors.
Honestly, why would anyone want to do this to a judge they obviously respected enough to buy a dog from? There is nothing to gain but negative reaction in the first place, and it hardly seems a way to say thank you to someone who has sold you a good dog.
Creating rules or guidelines to ban judges from passing upon any descendants of their line would, for all intents and purposes, eliminate most all good breeders who are also judges. Certainly the successful breeder whose stock or stud dog is in demand could never think of judging - ever.
Concerning dogs bred by others, but sired by or out of stock bred by a judge, look at it this way. If you sell the most perfect dog in the world to someone, and they go on to breed it poorly and produce mediocre stock, are you responsible?
If someone sends a female to your highly-thought-of stud and the puppies are terrible, is that a reflection on you? Conversely, if someone breeds something wonderful from foundation stock that you’ve sold him or her, or if it is sired by one of your studs, should you take the credit? Of course not, it was the breeder’s thought and planning that produced the dog. Therefore the judge should have absolutely no compunction in putting up a dog that has descended from his bloodline.
As far as relationships with exhibitors go, I think good judgment applies here. I know and am friendly with many, many people throughout the dog world. If I were not able to judge dogs belonging to friends I would have to cease judging - no, make that I would want to cease judging. I have friends that have bred some of the great dogs of their respective breeds. Am I to be denied the opportunity of judging these outstanding dogs because I happen to know the breeder who produced them?
On the other hand, if a close personal friend, someone I spend a great deal of time with, was showing a dog I would just as soon that they didn’t show the dog under me. I feel the same way about this situation as I do about judging dogs I’ve bred. Nobody wins. Regardless of whether I put the dog up or down, it will create gossip and I feel there is more to lose than to gain.
If my exhibitor friend wouldn’t see it the same way, then he or she would have to be prepared to take the bitter with the sweet. The dog would be placed exactly where it deserved to go. I am not judging people, I am judging dogs. When I was still exhibiting I made it a practice not to show under very close friends, and they did the same with respect to me. I think the average judge would feel the same way.
Most judges use common sense. Riding to a show with someone, and judging his or her dog at that event, would be nothing less than foolish. Why ask for criticism? Doing business (dog or otherwise) is best conducted with folks whose dogs you will not be judging.
There are laws against robbing banks, yet dishonest people do it nearly every day. They do so because they believe the end (getting rich quick) justifies the means (stealing the money). Creating more rules to preclude their doing so seldom helps. After all, even the death penalty has not eliminated murders.
Honest people don’t make dishonest decisions just because there are rules against doing so and they might be caught. They have values and ethics that govern their lives and their decisions. They avoid doing wrong because they believe it is wrong and they avoid making decisions that give the appearance of doing wrong. Their personal standards guide them in making decisions that will not compromise those standards.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club’s first all breed judges.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.